Civil & Commercial Mediation Archives - Palmers Solicitors
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Civil & Commercial Mediation

Court rules driver must pay massive “fine”

Court rules driver must pay massive “fine”

A young woman was recently ordered to pay £24,500 to a private parking firm after ignoring hundreds of parking tickets.

Carly Mackie had been handed the almost-daily penalties after leaving her car at Dundee’s Waterfront without the necessary permit.

The 28-year-old had ignored the deluge of tickets, believing that they could not be enforced by law.

She was subsequently taken to court by the parking company Vehicle Control Services (VCS).

Earlier this month, a court ruled the charges were from a valid contract and Ms Mackie was liable to pay the outstanding sum.

Sheriff George Way said that she had parked outside a garage belonging to her stepfather and would not accept the offer of a parking permit – available for the cost of £40 a month.

In his judgment, Sheriff Way said “She admits she parked without a permit, on the property that the pursuers were contracted to protect.

“She had no better right or title to do so than any other interloper or stranger no matter what her belief might be.

“The defender refused to pay the parking charges not because she was unaware of the parking scheme or the terms of the notices or the financial consequences of parking at any time, but because she did not believe that the charges were valid in law.”

Jeremy Sirrell, a Palmers Partner with a wealth of experience of road traffic matters, said: “This case demonstrates the dangers of ignoring tickets. If the situation is allowed to escalate you may find that you eventually face a massive bill.

“If you are receiving parking tickets from a private firm and aren’t sure where you stand legally it is always worth seeking expert advice to clarify the situation.”

For advice on the law relating to parking tickets, please contact us.

Failure to enter into mediation could be costly

Failure to enter into mediation could be costly

One of the key recommendations in the Jackson Report, which has undertaken a wide scale review into the way that civil litigation is conducted, is that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) should be explored wherever possible in a bid to settle legal battles.

In his report, Lord Justice Jackson stated: “ADR, particularly mediation, has a vital role to play in reducing the costs of civil disputes, by fomenting the early settlement of cases. ADR is, however, under-used. Its potential benefits are not as widely known as they should be.”

Luke Morgan, a commercial mediation expert with Palmers, explained: “There are now warnings from a senior judge that a refusal to mediate costs disputes may soon face the same consequences as a refusal to mediate in the original dispute.

“There have already been two cases, both involving NHS Trusts, where the courts have taken a dim view of defendants failing to engage in ADR and have penalised them accordingly.”

In the first case, involving Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, sanctions were imposed on the unsuccessful paying party for refusing to engage in mediation.

Costs judge O’Hare ordered the defendant to pay costs, saying: “If the party unwilling to mediate is the losing party, the normal sanction is an order to pay the winner’s costs on the indemnity basis, and that means that they will have to pay their opponent’s costs even if those costs are not proportionate to what was at stake. This penalty is imposed because a court wants to show its disapproval of their conduct”.

In the second case, involving The Princess Alexander Hospital NHS Trust, the defendants argued that they did not enter into the mediation because the parties were so far apart. Costs judge Simons took the view that this was an unreasonable refusal to mediate and stated: “The parties should be encouraged to enter into mediation and if they fail to do so unreasonably then there should be a sanction”.

Luke added: “As both cases illustrate, a failure to enter into ADR can have serious financial consequences. The view of the courts is that a trial is a last resort and should only occur when all other routes to reach settlement have been exhausted.”

For more information about Palmers’ dispute resolution and mediation services, please contact us.

Civil disputes ‘should be settled online’

Civil disputes involving less than £25,000 could be settled via an eBay-style online service, a new report has recommended.

The Civil Justice Council, which oversees and co-ordinates the modernisation of the civil justice system, published its Online Dispute Resolution for Low Value Civil Claims report on 16 February, which describes online dispute resolution (ODR) as “an area with enormous potential.”

The report, produced by the council’s ODR Advisory Group, adds: “At a time of major pressure on public spending and high legal costs, ODR offers a major opportunity to help many people for whom public funding to resolve disputes is not available, or for whom legal costs are prohibitive.” It recommends the introduction of a three tier internet-based court service known as HM Online Court (HMOC):

  • tier one would provide online evaluation, helping people with an issue to classify their problem, understand their rights and responsibilities and the available options and remedies
  • in tier two, online facilitators would review papers and statements and help parties through mediation and negotiation, via the internet with additional teleconferencing, where necessary. The report says: “There will be some automated negotiation, which are systems that help parties resolve their differences without the intervention of human experts”
  • tier three would involve online judges, who would decide cases, or parts of cases, on an online basis via papers submitted electronically, with telephone conferencing as appropriate.

The report adds: “Although our terms of reference are restricted to civil claims under the value of £25,000, we believe that the jurisdiction of HMOC should also be extended to suitable family disputes and to appropriate cases that come before today’s tribunals.

“We predict two major benefits would flow from HMOC – an increase in access to justice (a more affordable and user-friendly service) and substantial savings in the cost of the court system.”

It cites organisations already successfully using ODR including eBay – where 60 million disagreements a year are resolved in this way – domain name registry company Nominet and the Traffic Penalty Tribunal of England and Wales.

The report says that assuming its recommendations are adopted, the ODR to be launched in England and Wales in 2017.

Whether the recommendations are accepted remains to be seen, if the proposals are given the go-ahead the challenge will be – as the report itself points out – delivering a system that fulfils the aims of extending access to justice and resolving disputes more easily, quickly and cheaply.

At Palmers, we regularly assist businesses to resolve commercial disputes through mediation, without the need for any court proceedings.

By bringing the two sides together in a neutral setting, we can help them to improve communication and understanding of each other’s perspective, with a focus on reaching a mutually acceptable outcome and maintaining an ongoing commercial relationship. For more information, please contact us.

Civil disputes ‘should be settled online’

Civil disputes involving less than £25,000 could be settled via an eBay-style online service, a new report has recommended.

The Civil Justice Council, which oversees and co-ordinates the modernisation of the civil justice system, published its Online Dispute Resolution for Low Value Civil Claims report on 16 February, which describes online dispute resolution (ODR) as “an area with enormous potential.”

The report, produced by the council’s ODR Advisory Group, adds: “At a time of major pressure on public spending and high legal costs, ODR offers a major opportunity to help many people for whom public funding to resolve disputes is not available, or for whom legal costs are prohibitive.” It recommends the introduction of a three tier internet-based court service known as HM Online Court (HMOC):

  • tier one would provide online evaluation, helping people with an issue to classify their problem, understand their rights and responsibilities and the available options and remedies
  • in tier two, online facilitators would review papers and statements and help parties through mediation and negotiation, via the internet with additional teleconferencing, where necessary. The report says: “There will be some automated negotiation, which are systems that help parties resolve their differences without the intervention of human experts”
  • tier three would involve online judges, who would decide cases, or parts of cases, on an online basis via papers submitted electronically, with telephone conferencing as appropriate.

The report adds: “Although our terms of reference are restricted to civil claims under the value of £25,000, we believe that the jurisdiction of HMOC should also be extended to suitable family disputes and to appropriate cases that come before today’s tribunals.

“We predict two major benefits would flow from HMOC – an increase in access to justice (a more affordable and user-friendly service) and substantial savings in the cost of the court system.”

It cites organisations already successfully using ODR including eBay – where 60 million disagreements a year are resolved in this way – domain name registry company Nominet and the Traffic Penalty Tribunal of England and Wales.

The report says that assuming its recommendations are adopted, the ODR to be launched in England and Wales in 2017.

Whether the recommendations are accepted remains to be seen, if the proposals are given the go-ahead the challenge will be – as the report itself points out – delivering a system that fulfils the aims of extending access to justice and resolving disputes more easily, quickly and cheaply.

At Palmers, we regularly assist businesses to resolve commercial disputes through mediation, without the need for any court proceedings.

By bringing the two sides together in a neutral setting, we can help them to improve communication and understanding of each other’s perspective, with a focus on reaching a mutually acceptable outcome and maintaining an ongoing commercial relationship. For more information, please contact us.

Prompt payment drive takes step forward

The government has teamed up with bodies representing small businesses as part of its drive to help improve supply chain cash flow for UK firms, including construction businesses.

The Small Business Economic Forum (SBEF) announced on 2 August that its members had signed an agreement to work together to develop new measures to ensure that payments are secured and made on time.

The forum brings together business representatives and small businesses to share their views with ministers on enterprise issues, in particular economic issues facing small firms. Members signing the agreement included the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Mark Prisk, Business and Enterprise Minister and chair of the SBEF, said: “Large firms have a responsibility to ensure their suppliers are paid on time. These payments are vital to businesses in the supply chain, which rely on contracts with larger firms to thrive and need confidence that they can plan for the future without worrying that payments will be late.

“Working with industry bodies to encourage their members to sign the Prompt Payment Code and commit to making payments on time is a significant step forward.”

The Prompt Payment Code encourages best practice between organisations and their suppliers. Businesses signing up to the code commit to paying suppliers within clearly defined terms and to ensuring there is a proper process for dealing with any issues that may arise.

Late payments continue to be a significant issue for the construction sector. In May the National Specialist Contractors Council revealed that only three per cent of members responding to its State of Trade Survey were paid within three per cent, although the figure rose to 41 per cent in the public sector.

Adam Davis, a member of Palmers’ Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department and a specialist in construction law, said: “While initiatives like the new agreement and Prompt Payment Code are welcome, sometimes construction firms do need to take more formal steps to recover money owed to them. We can advise on options available, including our mediation service as an alternative to litigation. For more information, please contact us.”

Grandparents Rights

Grandparents Rights

There is little recognition for the vital role grandparents’ play in the lives of their grandchildren. Research suggests they are increasingly relied upon by parents for help with childcare and family finances. However, they can often lose contact with their grandchildren in the event of the parents’ separation or divorce.

It is hoped that a recent Government review will make it easier for grandparents to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren. The review suggests that parties engage in mediation to resolve contact issues and that the importance of grandparents be recognised by incorporating this within Parenting Agreements.

Mediation involves attending at a series of meetings with a trained family mediator to work together to resolve your issues and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This can avoid costly court proceedings or negotiations through solicitors and can take place before or after proceedings are issued.

If matters cannot be resolved directly with the parents or through mediation then it may be necessary to apply to the Court for a Contact Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. A Contact Order requires the person with whom the child lives, or is to live, to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the Order, or for alternative forms of contact e.g. by telephone.

Grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply for a Contact Order but they can apply to the Court for permission (leave) to do so, which will usually be granted unless there are good reasons to refuse such an application.

The Court will only make a Contact Order if it is considered to be in the best interests of the child and will take into account a number of matters when making this decision, with the welfare of the child being the paramount consideration.

Palmers have a team of four specialist family solicitors who can advise you regarding your options if you are having difficulties seeing your grandchildren. We also offer a mediation service. We are committed to assisting clients to reach amicable settlements where possible, as this both reduces legal costs and avoids the emotional stress of contested court proceedings.

This article was written by Surjit Verdi, a Solicitor in the Family Department.